Zimbabwe: Nursed orphaned elephants released into the wild
African savannah elephants are classified as “endangered”. A protection program prepares young animals without parents for life in the wild – and after months of intensive care, the time has come.
Seven orphaned and nursed baby elephants have been released back into the wild in Zimbabwe. The pachyderms were brought from their care station near the capital Harare to the Panda Masuie nature reserve, 1100 kilometers away, not far from the famous Victoria Falls in the west of the country by crane, lifting platform and heavy transport. This was announced by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and the Zimbabwean animal welfare organization “Wild is Life”.
The elephants – Moyo, Unity, Sally, Sienna, Bumi, Coco and Kururakura – were rescued from life-threatening situations as babies or juveniles and cared for at the Zimbabwe Elephant Nursery, run by both organizations. Some of the elephant mothers were killed by poachers, while others died from injuries or drought, said the founder of the elephant orphanage, Roxy Danckwerts.
The little elephants were cared for around the clock for months and fed with special milk until they were released back into the wild. “Baby elephants are completely dependent on milk until the age of two and cannot survive on their own,” explained Danckwerts.
The animals arrived safely on Thursday at the 85,000-hectare reserve, where 11 other recovered elephants already live. These should help the newcomers to settle into their new surroundings. The process could take anywhere from several months to a few years, Danckwerts said. Until then, the animals would be cared for and observed daily by rangers.
Some older pachyderms have already been successfully released and roam through the unfenced sanctuary and also through adjacent reserves in neighboring Botswana and Mozambique. The Zimbabwe Elephant Nursery says it has saved 46 orphaned baby elephants since 2014.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classifies African savannah elephants, whose numbers have fallen by at least 60 percent in the past 50 years, as “endangered”. Around 415,000 of the animals still live on the continent, mainly in southern Africa.